Help!! Horse on the loose?!

You know the photographs, the horse seems to run in total freedom in a beautiful area. Would a horse really be running in total freedom? That is not possible, right? There are only a few horses that can be turned totally loose. So there are other ways to create the illusion of horses running free. There are different ways to achieve this. I will explain all about it in this blog post.

Really running free

There are horses that can really run free but you need a lot of trust in the horse to do this. What does a horse do when it gets scared? Would it run away to a trusted spot or will he stay close to his owner? There are big risks to turning a horse totally loose. If a horse gets scared and runs away most people really wouldn’t know what to do. And during such an event, a panicked horse, the horse could run over a child or hurt itself when it’s not under your supervision and control. So please be VERY sure it is ok before turning loose a horse.


One of the most used methods is with poles. With poles, you can create a make-shift enclosed piece in the middle of nature. When using poles there are also some things to take into account. There are horses that don’t regard the poles and rope and easily jump over or run through this. So this method should only be used with owners who know it will be alright with their horse.

Also, you should check the ground very well, is it even? Are there no holes in the ground for the horse to step in and break its legs? A short check before setting up the poles is no luxury.

When the poles and wire have been set up the horse should be let past the wire on both sides so he sees where the wire is. Only after that has happened the horse can be turned loose. This might be the moment to stand ready with your camera as some horses already put up quite a show that might make your photographers heart skip a beat. This might be the moment to make the best action shots!

Other horses might need some cheering before strutting their stuff. It’s a good plan to give the horse a bit of time after he is turned loose to get used to the enclosure. When the horse is used the horse might be chased a bit to run but you and the owner always need to regard the behaviour of the horse. Sometimes you see horses looking for ways to break out. When seeing this behaviour that is ALWAYS a reason to stop immediately!


When you have a beautiful pasture to use that is amazing of course. In a pasture, horses can run around freely and safely. In most pastures, there is plenty of room for horses to run around freely and really strutting their stuff. With pastures, it might happen the area is too big for you to photograph the horse image filling. In cases like that, you might use poles and wire to temporarily make the pasture a bit smaller.


Lunging with a rope halter is the safest option for most horses and owners.

But this method has two big disadvantages. The first being for the photographer. It might take a lot of work to erase those rope halters in post-processing. But what’s worse is disadvantage number two. You might be able to tell the horse was lunged from the horses’ posture. The neck and head are often in a weird angle when being lunged causing the photograph to look unnatural. There are ways to solve this. The owner might run along a bit with the horse so the horse can run straight for a bit. Basically, the horse runs in squares instead of rounds. This technique is often used as well in the dressage training. For this technique to be used the owner has to run a bit more and make sure to not run in front of or behind of the horse from the perspective of the photographer.

Bonus tip

It’s all great to know the techniques to make the horse appear to run free and wild. But do you already know your camera inside and out? Do you know what shutter speed entails, what effect aperture has and why ISO even exists? And maybe most importantly, how to combine these three together so you can adjust your own settings?

If you are still feeling a bit unsure about this? Or if you just need a refresher, I’ve got you covered! I created a basic course that helps you adjust the settings of your own camera to achieve the image you have in your head!

And you?

What method do you prefer the most?

Merel Bormans
Merel Bormans is a photographer with her website and portfolio on She specializes in equine and canine photography and travels the whole world in pursuit of the most amazing photographs!

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